This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Rachel Novick, PhD.
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
Kierran Broatch, Chris Cryder,
Curt Johnson, Laura McMillan,
Mary V. Rickel Pelletier,
Alex Roem, Leah Schmalz,
Eric Annes, Meghan Boian,
Juliet Manalan, Laura McMillan,
Emily Schaller, Beth Weinberger
DESIGN AND PRINTING
Professor, Yale University
Director, Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Aquaculture
Board Member, Connecticut Fund for the Environment
Chair, Long Island Sound Citizens Advisory Committee
Director, Connecticut Department of Energy and
Environment Protection's Marine Fisheries Division
Professor, Wesleyan University
Professor, University of New Haven
Tom Andersen, Carmela Cuomo, PhD, Ellen Thomas, PhD.,
Adam Welchel, PhD., Gary Wikfors, PhD., Harry Yamalis,
Charles Yarish, PhD.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
7 State Policy Priorities
8 Federal Policy Priorities
9 Top 10 Things You Can Do
10 Coastal Habitat
12 Beach Litter
14 Migratory Habitat
16 Spotlight: Clean Water
18 Low Oxygen
20 Raw Sewage
22 Stormwater Runoff
24 Toxic Chemicals
26 Spotlight: Green Infrastructure
30 CCMP & SoundVision
32 Long Island Sound Restoration Act
34 Emerging Issues: Use Conflicts
36 Emerging Threats: Sea Level Rise
39 Spotlight: The Sound’s Resilience
40 Spotlight: The Sound’s Food Web
42 Sound Stewards
48 Who We Are
LONG ISLAND SOUND
IS PART OF OUR LIVES.
1 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
We are fortunate that we can still
experience some of the wild beauty
and abundant animal life that Europeans
described when they first reached
these shores. But pollution and
overdevelopment threaten wildlife
and the habitats on which they depend.
Pollution of the Sound also threatens
us – our health, our beaches and our
state and local economies, which
receive billions of dollars each year
from fishing and tourism.
2 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Long Island Sound is an ESTUARY, a body of water along the
coast where fresh water from rivers and streams meets and
mixes with salt water from the ocean. Because estuaries are
protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds, and storms
by barrier islands and peninsulas – in the Sound's case, Long
Island, New York – many species of fish and wildlife rely on their
sheltered waters to spawn, giving rise to the term “nurseries of
We live in the Long Island Sound WATERSHED, which
means that our rainwater flows directly or indirectly into all the
rivers that drain into the Sound. This may seem insignificant, until
you step back and notice that these rivers include major and
minor waterway inputs in Connecticut, New York, northern New
England, and in the case of the Connecticut River, even our
neighbor Canada. Thus the Long Island Sound watershed includes
16,000 square miles in Connecticut, the north shore of Long
Island, New York City, Westchester County and parts of
Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Canada. More
than 8 million people reside within the watershed and almost
10% of the total U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the
Sound's shores. The choices we make as residents and
champions affect this fragile body of water, the life that dwells
within it and along its shores, and those who depend on it for
recreation or livelihood. We have long depended on the Sound for
both its biological abundance and its natural beauty. Unfortunately,
as population along its coasts and in its watershed increased, the
demands placed on Long Island Sound by the very people relying on
its bounty began to take their toll.
The summer of 1987 marked a significant turning point in the
Sound's history. Although there have been reported occurrences of
hypoxia (low oxygen) in Long Island Sound as early as the early
1900s, the hypoxic event of 1987 was staggering. At least in part,
this situation was fed by blooms of algae. When they died, their
decay sucked the oxygen from the water, causing a “dead zone” in
which no wildlife could survive. Certainly, the Sound had already
suffered from a multitude of environmental assaults including loss
of coastal and underwater habitat, industrial pollution, and
dumping of raw sewage, but the emergence of the dead zone
became a call to action.
Under the guidance of the Long Island Sound Study, scientists and
citizens from throughout the region came together to create the
Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (the CCMP;
see page 30 for more information). The goals of the CCMP are to
improve water quality, protect habitat and living resources,
educate and engage the public, and improve our long-term
understanding of how to manage the Sound. Two decades later
we have made significant progress toward these goals, but we
still have a long way to go in measuring and accomplishing the
3 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
about the state
of the Sound’s
About the quality
of the water and
habitats we share
with birds, fish,
seals, oysters and
Perhaps you are
curious about the
health of our
beaches and coastal habitat, or maybe you are wondering what
efforts are being made to enhance fisheries or manage
stormwater pollution. If so, "State of the Sound" is your guide to
understanding and protecting this national treasure known as
Long Island Sound.
This report is divided into four topics – habitat, water quality,
stewardship, and emerging issues – that together address the
questions “How is the Sound doing?” and “How can we improve
it?” Three of these topics are further broken down into eight
indicators, each representing an aspect of the Sound’s health that
we can change for the better. The grades provided for these
indicators are, therefore, a true measure of the efforts made by
New York and Connecticut to conserve and protect Long Island
Sound over the last two decades. The milestones against which
these efforts are assessed reflect the goals of the Long Island
Sound conservation community (as developed in the
Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and the Long
Island Sound Agreements), which will create a healthier balance
of human and natural needs. They include restoring 2,000 acres of
coastal habitat, opening 100 river miles blocked by dams to fish
passage, reducing by 58.5% human nitrogen inputs that
contribute to oxygen-reducing algal blooms, and ensuring that the
Sound is available to everyone through the development of public
access sites, parks and nature reserves.
Many of Long Island Sound’s needs are straightforward: no raw
sewage, no toxic chemicals and no litter in the water. But we also
recognize that this vital ecosystem has always been a human
place; after all, it is situated in one of the most populated parts of
the country. New threats which impact the health of the Sound,
and in many cases human welfare, will continue to arise. The
fourth topic – emerging issues – while not graded, covers issues
like energy and dredging needs in the section called Use
Conflicts. In addition to these four broad headings, numerous
issue such as climate change, food web interactions, and nutrient
bio-extraction – are rising to the surface. These vignettes are
covered in various spotlight sections found throughout the report.
The following page summarizes the grades for each indicator and,
most importantly, the policy improvements that Connecticut and
New York must prioritize in order to raise the grades. Following
this “report card” we list steps that individuals can take to
effectively protect the Sound. It will take the combined efforts of
governments and individual citizens to achieve our vision of a
clean and healthy Long Island Sound.
READ MORE ABOUT THE CCMP ON PAGE 30.
What sets State of the Sound apart
from other environmental reports is that
it doesn’t just point out the problems.
It highlights the positive steps that have
been taken and the next steps that
ought to be taken to improve the state
of the Sound. This is not a catalog of
environmental degradation – it is a
CALL TO ACTION!
What this report is and what it isn't
This report is Save the Sound’s take on the CCMP-based Long Island Sound
issues that the public inquires about most frequently. It is intended to be a
subjective, brief overview based on data collected from regulatory reports
and experts up to 2010. This report is not intended, and does not attempt,
to cover the entire world of Long Island Sound. Accompanying each
identified issue is a grade that assesses the efforts our government has
put forth to achieve regionally-agreed-upon CCMP goals.
4 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Long Island Sound was in bad shape back in the mid and
late 1980s, when I first started paying attention. If you think
of the Sound as a big forest, it was as if all the air had been
removed from a third of that forest, and all the warblers,
thrushes, butterflies, spiders, bats, squirrels, cicadas, katydids
and deer suffocated or, if they were lucky, crowded into other
areas. That's how bad hypoxia was in the summer. Virtually all
forms of marine life were unable to survive in the western third of
Long Island Sound.
BUT THAT WAS 20 YEARS AGO.
WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE?
Lobsters have all but vanished. Oysters, carefully restored with
infusions of money from taxpayers and the private sector,
succumbed to two diseases and are only now starting to revive.
Winter flounder disappeared. The water on average has gotten
warmer; warm-water species are replacing coldwater species.
Salt marshes are dying. And hypoxia returns every summer –
sometimes bad, sometimes not so bad, sometimes critically bad.
Several years ago I was on a conference call, planning a public
forum with a handful of college professors who teach on the far
eastern end of the Sound, and when I used the word "crisis" to
describe the late 1980s, one of them interrupted and told me
quite peremptorily that there is not now nor has there ever been a
crisis in Long Island Sound.
On the contrary. Long Island Sound exists now in a state of
permanent crisis. That's my opinion, of course. But what other
conclusion are we to draw? Twenty years ago the US government
and the states of New York and Connecticut created what has
become a permanent – as well as knowledgeable and dedicated –
bureaucracy to manage Long Island Sound, and yet there's so
much going wrong in the Sound we can hardly keep track.
When I was in elementary school I once tried to cover up a failing
grade by dropping a strategically-located blot of blue ink from a
cartridge pen onto my report card. Reading this "State of the
Sound" report card, I see a lot of places where I'd like to drop
blots of blue ink.
After 20 years of anti-pollution efforts, we get a D-plus in raw
sewage? Spill an ink blot there. C-minus in low oxygen? Ink blot,
please. A C-minus in keeping stormwater that is contaminated with
dog crap and motor oil and chemical fertilizers away from our
beaches and shellfish beds? A big ink blot there. And we still have
substantial work to do for sea level rise adaptation and dealing with
conflicts among the people who use the Sound. Blot, and another blot.
5 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
BUT WE MUST BE DOING WELL IN SOMETHING, YES?
We get an A- in migratory habitat. Fish ladders open up rivers
blocked by dams, letting anadromous fish swim upstream to
spawn (although as the biologist in charge of Connecticut's
program has said, swimming upstream is one thing; getting back
down past the dams and ladders is another).
We get an A in coastal habitat for restoring 834 acres, mainly of
And we get a B- in beach litter, although not because there's any
less of it now. The amount of litter is about the same as it was a
decade ago. We earn a B because more people are volunteering
to participate in beach cleanups – in other words, more people
are picking up other people's trash.
It takes an act of will not to feel pessimistic in the face of all this,
and I'd be lying if I said that at times I don't. But those of us who
care about Long Island Sound can't afford to be too pessimistic –
or rather, we can't afford to let pessimism deter us from doing
what needs to be done.
What exactly is that? We need to make sure our elected officials
know that Long Island Sound is a priority, and that they continue
to provide money for sewage treatment plant upgrades and
stormwater management, and for increasing and improving public
access to the Sound. We need to help organizations like Save the
Sound continue to promote the notion that what we as individuals
do has an effect on what Long Island Sound is.
When anyone – a municipality operating a sewage plant, a boat
owner heedless about where he dumps his vessel's head, a
multinational corporation that wants to industrialize the Sound, a
homeowner with a bad fertilizer habit – damages the Sound, we
need to take it personally. We need to remember that Long Island
Sound is ours.
And one more thing: although the state of the Sound seems grim,
this "State of the Sound" report is excellent – read it, and do
what it says.
Tom Andersen is the author of
This Fine Piece of Water:
An Environmental History of Long Island Sound
(Yale University Press).
He blogs about the Sound at thissphere.blogspot.com.
LONG ISLAND SOUND
EXISTS NOW IN
A STATE OF
PERMANENT CRISIS. HAMMONASSETT STATE PARK
6 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
I NDI CATOR EFFORT
Coastal Habitat A
Beach Litter B-
Migratory Habitat A-
Low Oxygen C-
Raw Sewage D+
Stormwater Runoff C-
Toxic Chemicals C
State of the Sound Grade
STATE OF THE SOUND:
Average grade for Connecticut
and New York efforts
7 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
How to Raise the Grade: Policy Priority
Areas for New York and Connecticut
STEP 1. Fully fund Long Island Sound federal programs like the Long Island Sound
Restoration Act and the Stewardship Initiative to provide New York and Connecticut
with strong support for clean water projects and climate change efforts and to save
and restore the Sound's last great coastal spaces. SEE PAGE 32.
STEP 2. Control stormwater runoff through riverfront protection legislation, facilitating the
creation of regional stormwater associations, promoting low impact development,
green infrastructure and best management practices and providing low-interest loans
for capital improvements. SEE PAGES 22 AND 26.
STEP 3. Leverage federal stewardship funding by creating a dedicated state Long Island
Sound Stewardship Matching Fund that will preserve and restore the region’s last
great coastal spaces.
STEP 4. Address expected impacts of global warming by incorporating sea level rise
adaptation strategies into coastal infrastructure planning and beach protection. SEE PAGE 37.
STEP 5. Create options that ensure a conservation sale of Plum Island to provide wildlife
habitat and opportunities for enhanced public access. SEE PAGE 35.
8 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Long Island Sound is a
regional treasure and
has been declared an
Estuary of National
support plays a critical
role in the Sound’s
Federal Policy Priorities
LOOK FOR THIS SYMBOL
THROUGHOUT THIS REPORT.
IT HIGHLIGHTS THE AREAS
OF HIGHEST PRIORITY FOR
STEP 1. Reauthorize and fully fund Long Island Sound programs
under Section 119 of the Clean Water Act – including
but not limited to the Long Island Sound Restoration
Act – to provide strong support for New York and
Connecticut clean water infrastructure projects. SEE PAGE 32.
STEP 2. Reauthorize and fully fund the Long Island Sound
Stewardship Act to protect and restore the Sound and
its last great coastal spaces. SEE PAGES 28 AND 35.
STEP 3. Increase Long Island Sound Study funding to research
changes in the Sound’s food webs, water quality
issues and living marine resources. SEE PAGE 40.
STEP 4. Fully fund NOAA’s Community-Based Restoration
Program, Open Rivers Initiative, and Coastal and
Estuarine Land Conservation Program, as well as
the Land and Water Conservation Fund to ensure
the success of habitat restoration and fish ladder
projects in the Sound’s watershed. SEE PAGE 10.
STEP 5. Fully fund the US Army Corps of Engineers' Dredged
Material Management Plan for Long Island Sound and
the Environmental Impact Statement for the Designation
of Dredged Material Disposal Sites in the eastern
Sound. SEE PAGE 34.
9 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
1. Call or e-mail your state legislators and
congressional representatives and encourage
them to act now to raise their State of the
2. Enjoy the birds when visiting marshes and
beaches, but don’t disturb them. Also, reconsider
bringing your pets.
3. Volunteer for a beach cleanup or a local
river bank restoration. Or help environmental
agencies by assisting at the Stewart B. McKinney
Wildlife Refuge, or the Connecticut Department of
Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and
New York Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) state parks.
4. Get involved with your local watershed
association, land trust or conservation
5. Storm drains lead to the Sound, so be sure to
clean up after your dog and wash your car in the
grass or at a carwash that recycles its water.
6. Test soil to apply the right type and amount of
fertilizer, and try to use organic fertilizer, compost,
or grass clippings to fertilize your lawn naturally.
Reduce or eliminate pesticide use.
You CAN Make a Difference
7. Whenever possible, recycle compact florescent
light bulbs and electronics. And be sure to
dispose of all products containing heavy metals,
like mercury thermometers, old thermostats, and
lead-acid batteries, at a hazardous waste facility.
8. Keep cigarettes and other litter off your local
beaches and sidewalks.
9. Maintain your septic tank regularly. Never hook
your storm gutters up to sewers, and report
illegal storm drain hookups to Connecticut DEEP
and New York DEC.
10. Purchase a Preserve the Sound License Plate
in Connecticut or a Marine and Coastal District
License Plate in New York. Portions of both
fees go to protect our coastal waters!
…and remember to always enjoy and
celebrate the Sound!
Want more info on Long Island Sound?
Want to pitch in to protect the Sound?
Turn to the Resources section on page 45.
THINGS YOU CAN
DO TO PROTECT
LONG ISLAND SOUND 10 TOP
10 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
• Coastal habitats are critical for wildlife and
• Connecticut has restored substantial
habitat in recent years but New
York’s program has not kept pace.
• We can improve by protecting upland
areas and monitoring marsh loss. A
streamlined permitting process and greater
focus on high elevation marshes will also
enhance restoration progress in New York.
Coastal habitats are found within the transition zone between
land and sea. They include marshes, forests, shellfish reefs, sand
dunes and eelgrass beds. Coastal habitats provide food and refuge
for birds, fish, crabs and many other animals.
Many of these
habitats act as buffers, preventing erosion and flooding.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Combined, Connecticut and New York have restored or protected
over 1000 acres of coastal habitat, composed primarily of coastal
marshes, over the last decade.
However, there is a tremendous
amount of work to be done. The two states are not yet on track
to meet their commitment of restoring 2000 new acres by 2020.
At the current rate, the states risk sliding to an F on coastal habitat
restoration in the future.
• New York can improve its restoration program by streamlining the
permitting process and focusing restoration efforts on high
elevation marshes. These marshes are more resilient in the face
of sea level rise than low elevation marshes, which have been a
focus of restoration efforts in the past.
• Both states should protect upland areas to allow for wetland
migration over the coming decades and support comprehensive
monitoring and study of marsh changes and losses.
Restored and Protected
Centuries of filling marshland
resulted in the loss of a third of
and possibly as
much as half of Long Island’s
coastal marshes until state and
federal protections were enacted
in the early 1970s. Today, the
remaining marshes are facing
Sea level rise is drowning the
Sound’s low elevation marshes.
Some high elevation marshes are
migrating into formerly dry areas,
but those that are blocked by
roads or houses may soon
disappear. Still other marshes
suffer from a mysterious
malady called sudden marsh
die-back, which may be related
to sediment deprivation, over
grazing, disease, or a combination
In the Long Island Sound
Agreement of 2003, New York
and Connecticut committed to
measuring tidal wetland loss in
the Sound and researching its
This process has begun,
but comprehensive tracking of
marsh loss and migration is still
needed to determine conservation
and restoration priorities.
Diamondback terrapins protect
marshes from overgrazing by
eating the periwinkle snails which
consume marsh grasses. Marsh
restoration will help the number
of terrapins grow.
Marshes Under Threat
The region has modified this milestone to include both
restored and protected habitats, and when using this
standard, the region has exceeded its 2011 goal. However,
this report is grading based on restored acres alone, as that
best reflects progress toward the 2020 goal of 2000 acres
of restored habitat.
11 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Hard Clam Harvest
*Unfortunately there is no data for Connecticut in 2008
or 2009. Connecticut shellfishermen stopped reporting
their yield when a new, though ultimately defeated,
tax was proposed.
Ecosystem-Based Management means making
decisions with a holistic understanding of the needs
of, and relationships among, all the living and non-living
components in an ecosystem. It is difficult to achieve
but it is more important now than ever before.
Fisheries managers in Long Island Sound use
ecosystem-based management, but are hindered
by limitations in our understanding of the food webs
in Long Island Sound, as well as the habitat and
environmental quality requirements for all of the
species they manage.
Effective ecosystem-based management is all the more
important in the face of climate change. The species
composition of the Sound is changing and management
decisions that have worked well in the past are losing
their effectiveness. We must study the impact of climate
change on Long Island Sound’s systems and organisims
and establish baselines so that we can better monitor
and respond to changes as they emerge.
Serious commitments to ecosystem-based fisheries
research at the federal and state levels will have
far-reaching benefits in the future.
Oysters and their cultivation are a critical part of our
heritage and cultural identity. They also provide an
environmental benefit; they are natural water filters
and nutrient cleansers. Unfortunately the industry hit
some tough times in the late 1990s when two diseases
decimated the population. Thanks to NOAA scientists,
the Connecticut Division of Aquaculture and oystermen,
the industry is now poised to undergo a major
renaissance. Such an event will depend on undertaking
large-scale restoration efforts. In order to accomplish
this, the Sound's oyster managers need a direct infusion
of capital if the industry is to reclaim its share of the
market. Unfortunately, the last major investment in the
Long Island Sound oyster industry occurred in the early
1990s. It is time to change that.
12 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Beach litter is not just unsightly; it also poses a real danger to
human and wildlife health. Children playing in the sand have
encountered syringes, broken glass and cigarette butts, all of
which endanger their health. It is also often fatal to wildlife
that become entangled in it or accidentally ingest it.
• Beach litter threatens the health of both
humans and wildlife.
• Connecticut and New York have increased
beach cleanup participation but have not made
needed progress in preventing litter.
• We can improve litter law enforcement and
marine debris education and cleanups.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
On average, almost 300 pounds of trash per mile of beach are
collected annually around Long Island Sound. This is nearly the
same as it was a decade ago. It is apparent that our present litter
prevention programs, while working, are in need of improvement.
The good news is that people are becoming more aware of the
problem. Public participation in beach cleanups has increased
significantly over the last decade – last year alone nearly 2,700
people in Connecticut volunteered for coastal cleanups. In addition
to removing litter, beach cleanups educate the public and develop
community responsibility for beaches and waterways. Data
collected during cleanups serves to help the region understand the
sources of litter, identify trends and determine what steps can be
taken to curb littering behavior. New York and Connecticut have
recently passed expanded bottle bills which will help eliminate
water bottles and other non-soda beverages from our beaches.
By taking the following steps, New York and Connecticut can
reduce litter on land and sea:
• Create state marine debris acts that provide education and
• Raise inadequate littering fines and improve enforcement.
WHAT GOES ON THE GROUND
GOES IN THE SOUND!
Discarded fishing gear, fishing line, plastic bags, nurdles (pre-production plastic pellets)
and other plastic marine debris kill more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine
mammals and sea turtles worldwide each year.
TRASH FOUND PER MILE OF BEACH ON
INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEANUP DAY
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
14 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Fish ladders are composed of a series of low steps that enable
fish to swim over or around a dam and into waters on the other
side when it is not possible to remove the dam structure. River
herring, American eel, shad, brown trout and Atlantic salmon all
live within the waters of Long Island Sound watershed. These fish
rely on fish ladders to reach their spawning areas; if their path is
blocked by dams, their numbers dwindle. These fish are a major
source of food for birds of prey in both New York and Connecticut
and they return nutrients that have been washed out to sea to
inland habitats that need them. When it isn’t possible to restore
the natural flow of rivers by removing dams, fish ladders are a good
second choice, allowing fish to migrate and reproduce successfully.
• Fish ladders are critical for the survival of
many migratory fish.
• Connecticut exceeded the 2008 and 2011
• We can improve with consistent state funding
for migratory fish habitat restoration in
Connecticut and dedicated fish ladder staff in
MILES OF RIVER HABITAT
Still Blocked NY
Still Blocked CT
Opened with Fish Ladders
NY Open River
CT Open River
ALEWIVES RUNNING UPSTREAM. (ROBERT JACOBS, CONNECTICUT DEEP)
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Connecticut, which has the larger migratory fish habitat, has been
making substantial progress in fishway construction. It hit the
2008 milestone earlier than expected and has also surpassed the
2011 milestone. Each project has been a collaborative effort
involving government agencies, non-profit organizations and
volunteers. The success of the program speaks to the
commitment of all involved. At this point, about 47% of the
historic migratory fish habitat in Connecticut is open.
In contrast, New York has not built any fish ladders in the Sound
watershed to date and only 13% of the Long Island Sound portion
of New York’s habitat is open. Despite Connecticut’s progress,
there remains much that needs to be done in both states.
• Given Connecticut's significant natural habitat for migratory
fish, installing fishways on its streams and rivers remains a
high priority. A consistent source of matching state funds for
building fish ladders and additional staff will enable this
successful program to continue to grow.
• New York’s program needs improvement. The addition of dam
safety staff dedicated to streamlining the fish ladder permitting
process and enhancing cooperation between agencies would
meet this need.
• The Long Island Sound community should continue to set
challenging milestones and work to meet them as about 600
river miles of riverine habitat remain blocked to migratory fish.
The river herring population has continued
to decline over the last two decades and
is now at an all-time low. Several possible
have been identified: by-catch
from the large Atlantic herring fishery may
be under-reported; striped bass prey on
river herring; and most river habitat is still
blocked. It is likely that a combination of
these factors and others are responsible
for the decline. Research is needed to
pinpoint the best management strategies
that will bring schools of herring back to
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
16 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Spotlight: Clean Water Infrastructure
CLEAN WATER –
The dream of a clean and healthy
Long Island Sound watershed is a
profound one for millions of us who
live near its shores and rivers.
Perhaps it’s the visual delight of
these rivers and our coastal waters,
with their ever-changing surface
reflections. Maybe their ebb and
flow naturally connects us to the
larger cycles and tides of life.
Perhaps the dream of clean water is profound because water
is the single largest chemical component of our beings.
Whatever it is, clean rivers and a clean Sound remain a dream
only half realized. The following pages are a snapshot in time.
They demonstrate current efforts and progress towards
achieving the shared vision of clean water in a healthy Sound.
They provide overviews of three interconnected problems
impacting water quality: low dissolved oxygen, raw sewage
and stormwater runoff. Improperly managed stormwater
flushes sewage from old sewer systems and chemicals from
lawns and roadways into the Sound. Meanwhile, nitrogen and
other nutrients from raw sewage overflow, sewage treatment
plant discharges and stormwater runoff spur an overgrowth of
algae, which consumes oxygen and can help lead to hypoxic
conditions as it decomposes.
We often hear from citizens concerned about how water quality will affect
their use of the Sound. Key questions we are frequently asked include:
IS THE SOUND SAFE TO SWIM IN? WHAT ABOUT
The Sound must be nearly free of sewage and harmful bacteria
to be safe for continuous swimming and harvesting of oysters
and clams. We have made substantial progress, especially in
Connecticut, in reducing raw sewage discharges from combined
sewer overflows. However, progress is still spotty, and in recent
years we have seen an unacceptable number of shellfish bed
and beach closings and advisories. This is caused by two major
factors: ongoing sewage overflow problems from urban areas
like New York City and Bridgeport and stormwater runoff
contaminated with pesticides, petroleum products and other
chemicals picked up by rainwater as it flows over our streets,
parking lots and lawns on its journey to the storm drain.
Continued collective investments in fixing these problems are
essential if we are to enjoy a sewage-free Sound.
IS POLLUTION IMPACTING THE ECOLOGICAL
HEALTH OF THE SOUND?
Without a doubt, the Sound's ecology is being impacted by
pollution. For a portion of every summer, oxygen levels in the
western Sound drop low enough to have a negative impact on
animals living in that region. This low oxygen problem, known as
“hypoxia,” is one of the Sound’s biggest ecological threats and is
caused by many factors – some, like sewage-related nitrogen,
are under our direct control and others, like warming water
temperatures, are not. Connecticut and New York municipalities
have made major investments in sewage treatment plant
upgrades over the past fifteen years. We are now removing
more than 28% of the nitrogen pollution produced by sewage
treatment plants in the two states. We are nearing the halfway
point in our effort to comply with legal requirements to remove
58.5% nitrogen pollution by the year 2014. Additional state and
local funding is essential if we are to meet this important goal.
The federal government, New York and Connecticut united to
protect Long Island Sound in 1994 when they developed the
CCMP, and joined forces once more in 2000 when together they
designed the action plan for nitrogen reduction, known as the
nitrogen total maximum daily load (TMDL). While all parties
involved continue marching toward the 2014 TMDL goal,
increased investments and implementation of innovative policies
are necessary. Now is the time to muster resources and mobilize
allies to support nitrogen reduction and increased research into
other potential factors that may be contributing to hypoxia in Long
Island Sound. After all, in this day and age, clean water should
not be a dream half-realized. It shouldn’t be a dream at all.
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
18 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Low dissolved oxygen, known as hypoxia, is the most serious
water quality problem in Long Island Sound.
events, oxygen levels in the western Sound drop so far that living
creatures who are able to leave the area, must. Those that
cannot, often perish. A major cause of this “dead zone” is
nitrogen; one main source of this nitrogen is sewage treatment
plant discharges. Other sources of nitrogen to Long Island Sound
include groundwater and surface runoff contaminated with lawn
fertilizer, agricultural waste and failing septic tanks, and even the
organic-rich sediments of western Long Island Sound.
The addition of extraneous nitrogen acts to fertilize the Sound,
resulting in an overgrowth of algae. When the algae die, they
begin to decompose as they fall through the water column. Their
decomposition uses up the oxygen in the water, contributing to
the hypoxia problem.
• Sewage treatment plant discharges are a
major source of the nutrients that contribute to
the low-oxygen, hypoxic “dead zone” in
the western Sound.
• Connecticut has renewed its
commitment to clean water and New
York has taken steps forward in the critical
New York City and Westchester plants.
• While substantial investment in sewage
treatment plant upgrades has been made in
the last two decades, significant work
remains. However, state funding for this work
is intermintent at best, non-existant at worst.
It is critical that both states re-commit to
sustained and reliable funding allocations.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
A significant part of the cure for the hypoxia in the Sound is to
ensure that all sewage treatment plants within the Sound's
watershed are upgraded to include nitrogen removal as part of
their treatment. In 2001, New York, Connecticut and the federal
government agreed to reduce nitrogen inputs by 58.5% by 2014.
Connecticut and New York have made significant progress,
toward this goal. Advanced nitrogen removal has been introduced
at 43% of the 105 sewage treatment plants around Long Island
For the last several years, however, a lack of funding has
stalled clean water projects, putting the attainment of that
milestone at risk.
In Connecticut, the state Clean Water Fund was well funded for
fifteen years. But in 2002 funding stopped, causing a substantial
backlog in sewage treatment plant upgrades. In 2008, thanks to
the state’s leadership, Connecticut recommitted to a reinvestment
starting that will result in major progress over the next few years.
In New York, clean water funding has run out and has not been
renewed despite the urgent need to upgrade the large sewage
treatment plants in New York City and Westchester County. New
York City has initiated construction but will be two years behind
the 2014 schedule. Westchester has entered into a Consent Order
with the Department of Environmental Conservation that delays
significant reduction in nitrogen levels until 2017. The good news,
however, is that Westchester is obligated to take significant steps
over the next eight years toward reducing nitrogen discharges.
As we study Long Island Sound, new issues continue to surface.
For example, in addition to nitrogen from sewage treatment
plants, we now know that organic carbon is stored in the
sediment beds where it can become oxidized. This process
consumes oxygen and re-releases the bound nitrogen back into
the water column, where it can serve as a nutrient for a next
generation of algae. In addition, rising temperatures and wind
patterns may result in enhanced stratification, impeding resupply
of oxygen to the deeper part of the Sound.
While the Total Maximum Daily Load is currently under review
and re-evaluation, reaching the current milestone will require
New York to renew clean water funding and Connecticut to
maintain consistent funding in the future.
19 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
While the summer of 2008 marked a
five-year high in hypoxia square mileage,
the extent and duration of hypoxia has not
decreased over the last decade despite lower
nitrogen inputs. Scientists believe that
organic matter from past decades is stored
in the sea floor sediment and can release
nitrogen back into the water as it
This results in a delay between decrease in nitrogen release and
reduction of hypoxia and its ill effects. In addition, warming temperatures and wind
shifts resulting from climate change may be slowing the Sound’s response process.
Nitrogen Output from
POUNDS PER DAY
Between 1994 and 2002, nitrogen
output from sewage treatment was
reduced by 28%
, but since then
progress has stagnated due to lack of
funding. Significant movement should
be seen once the agreed-to upgrades at
New York City and Westchester occur.
Pump It Out.
In 2007, Connecticut declared all of
its waters a no-discharge zone for
boats with onboard toilets in an effort
to eliminate sources of sewage, and
New York followed suit in 2011. In
order for no-discharge zones to be
successful, it will be essential to
maintain the pump-out stations and
make them easily accessible.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
In Connecticut, a handful of cities still have combined sewers.
These cities are in various phases of separation, but the worst
overflows are in Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwich and the Hartford
metropolitan area. While progress has been made, much more
needs to be done; continued commitment by these cities, even in
tough economic times, is required. The $875 million in state
bonding from 2008 to 2011 and the $48 million from the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be helpful but the state must
fully finance the Clean Water Fund for years to come if we are
finally going to stop the flow of raw sewage into the Sound.
New York City will invest billions of dollars in the first stage of a
plan to control their CSOs. But because state funding is extremely
limited, it will take decades to complete. In other areas, like Port
Chester, testing of stormwater pipes has revealed significant
bacterial contamination likely attributable to leaking sanitary
sewer pipes, though the exact cause has not yet been identified.
While CSOs separation has been achieved in both states, public
health is still at risk and the Sound’s waters, critical to supporting
wildlife, are still far from clean. Connecticut must ensure the
remaining CSOs are separated in a timely manner by providing
resources through the Clean Water Fund. New York should renew
clean water funding to make faster progress in New York City.
The Village of Port Chester must dedicate the necessary
resources to identify illicit discharges or other sources of the
contamination and take appropriate corrective steps.
20 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
• Raw sewage is a danger to public health
and limits use of beaches and shellfish beds.
• New York City and several Connecticut cities
are working to correct combined sewer
• Bridgeport needs to prioritize implementation of
its CSO control plan. Renewed clean water
funding in New York would mean faster progress
in New York City and stable funding in Connecticut
would move projects forward statewide.
No one knows how much
raw sewage flows out of
unmonitored storm pipes,
but these graphs track our
CSO correction progress
by measuring the volume of
minimally treated sewage
per inch of flowing rain
water discharged into the
– the taller the
column, the worse the
situation. When sewage
and stormwater overwhelm
a treatment plant's
capacity to fully treat
sewage, it signals that the
related combined sewer
outfall pipes along the way
are overflowing into the
Sound as well. In New
York’s Long Island Sound
watershed, New York City
is the major CSO concern;
its bypasses have
increased in recent years.
In Connecticut bypasses
have decreased overall,
although in some cities like
Bridgeport bypasses have
increased in recent years.
What is a Combined
Found in our older cities that
were originally built with a
combined sewer system, CSOs
are a slurry of residential
sewage, industrial wastewater
and stormwater that discharges,
untreated, into nearby water-
bodies like Long Island Sound.
City of Wilmington, Delaware,
CSO program (www.wilmingtoncso.com)
Sewage Discharged into Sound
GALLONS/INCH OF RAIN (MILLIONS)
* CSO information was not provided for
Hartford in 2008 and 2009.
** Both New York and Connecticut
reported a large number of “unknown”
volumes in 2009. The low numbers for
that year are therefore indicative of a
lack of data, not of improvement.
Red tides, or algal blooms, are events in which microscopic
plant-like organisms multiply rapidly, sometimes forming
dense, colored patches near the water’s surface. Some algae
species contain neurotoxins that accumulate in filter-feeder
organisms like oysters, mussels and clams. Eating shellfish
contaminated with these toxic organisms can cause
symptoms including respiratory paralysis in humans; the
toxins may also harm birds, fish, marine mammals and
humans. Upper New England’s shellfish beds are frequently
closed in summer to prevent this poisoning. While very
unusual in the Sound, in 2008 a couple bays were closed due
to Alexandrium-produced saxitoxin. In the summer of 2010
cells were detected in Northport and Huntington, NY, and one
site in Long Island Sound.
BEACH CLOSURE AND ADVISORY DAYS
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Fairfield 148 176 87 79 87
Middlesex 41 6 4 40 15
New Haven 11 32 17 16 6
New London 0 2 0 0 0
TOTAL 200 224* 108 135 108
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Bronx 69 181 216 225 299
Nassau 54 126 152 147 196
Queens 23 26 63 63 66
Suffolk 65 307 334 321 226
Westchester 53 42 77 105 230
Total 264 688 842 861 1017
Increased shellfish bed closures reflect worsening
raw sewage and stormwater problems in parts of
Connecticut. Shellfish harvesting has played a central
role in the Long Island Sound economy for centuries. After
decades of careful management to expand shellfish beds,
the number of open shellfish beds in Connecticut has
begun to shrink due to contamination from combined
sewage overflows and coastal overdevelopment. New York
is fortunate that no combined sewers exist in Long Island
and shellfish bed acreage there has remained constant,
but sewage overflow from New York City severely limits
shellfishing in the surrounding area. In Connecticut,
temporary shellfish bed closures during CSO events have
been getting worse. Combined sewer overflows in
Bridgeport closed shellfishing in Fairfield for 166 days in
Coastal overdevelopment is spreading in the
eastern Sound and could pose a future threat to
shellfishing beds unless careful land-use planning, like
innovative use of low impact development and green
infrastructure, are employed to reduce potential
Beach closures reflect continuing raw sewage and
stormwater problems in many parts of the Sound.
Beaches are the ultimate symbol of summertime and the
primary way that residents of the surrounding areas
interact directly with Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, in
many parts of the Sound, beaches must be closed for days,
and in some cases weeks, because bacteria from
combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff make it
dangerous to swim.
* While New London County continually self reports zero beach closings and/or
advisories, federally required testing at several key beaches tell a different story.
For example, 50% of the water quality samples from Waterford, CT's Kiddie Beach
exceeded state standards.
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
22 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
To protect Long Island Sound, both New York and Connecticut
require municipalities to put stormwater management plans in
place; however, enforcing those plans has become a major
challenge. The good news is that the two states are actively
funding and implementing protective measures, like storm drain
filters and municipal stormwater associations, which could
significantly reduce pollution and control localized flooding.
Connecticut recently allocated a million dollars for planning of
local stormwater authorities in several coastal cities
Mamaroneck, NY, is leading a coalition of twelve towns from its
county to plan a stormwater utility district.
New York and Connecticut have only begun to address the
problems of stormwater runoff. The two states should:
• Create small stormwater assistance funds to help
municipalities start stormwater authorities and install
stormwater filters in catch basins.
• Work with municipalities to find and address illicit discharges
and to encourage intermunicipal cooperation.
• Create incentives for cities and towns to incorporate green
infrastructure techniques (see spotlight page 26) for new
construction and redevelopment.
• Explore incentive programs for residential stormwater control.
Stormwater runoff affects
everyone; it is one of the
most serious water quality
problems facing the United
States today. Every time it
rains, water runs off hard
surfaces such as roofs,
driveways, roads and
parking lots, collecting
pollutants along the way.
This runoff flows into
streams and ultimately
drains into Long Island
Stormwater runoff is the
source of many problems:
flooded streets and
basements, streams that
are inhospitable to fish,
closed beaches and shellfish
beds, and an unhealthy
Long Island Sound. But with
runoff doesn’t have to be
• Stormwater runoff pollutes waterways
and causes flooding.
• New York and Connecticut have mandated
stormwater plans and stormwater
associations are being developed to help
implement those plans.
• Stormwater funding and enforcement
programs are in need of expansion and
legislation is needed to protect riverfronts.
The land directly adjacent to a river greatly impacts the quality of habitat that river
provides. Vegetated riverfronts buffer streams against pollution from surrounding areas; they
trap toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and high-volume runoff. Trees along the riverbank also shade
the water and keep it cool enough for temperature-sensitive fish, such as trout and salmon.
While many towns in Connecticut and New York have local laws protecting areas adjacent
to riverbanks, others provide no protection at all. Riverfront protection legislation would
ensure protection for all rivers.
Photo credit: Kierran Broatch
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
24 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Toxic Chemicals entering our waterways can cause problems
ranging from reduced growth and fertility to cancer and death
in both people and wildlife. Humans, birds of prey and other
animals high on the food chain are most at risk of certain
bio-accumulating toxins such as heavy metals, while other toxics
can wipe out the tiny organisms that form the base of the food
chain. These chemicals can re-enter the water when they are
disturbed by storms or activities that shift the sediments. Once in
the water, they are bioavailable and may be assimilated into the
Sound's living organisms. Although toxic releases have been
greatly reduced in recent decades, egregious violations of
government safety standards still exist.
• Toxic chemicals in our waterways endanger
wildlife and public health.
• Legal action stopped major toxic violators in
Connecticut. In New York, the number of
violations has decreased but still remains
• Enforcement resources are needed to address
violations, particularly in Suffolk County, NY.
A myriad of pharmaceuticals, including birth control pills, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications, are flushed down the
drain and into our waterways daily. Connecticut does not allow sewage discharges to drinking water sources, but New York
does, and everyone in our region should be concerned about the impact of these chemicals on Long Island Sound.
We know very little about the environmental effects of the majority of these pharmaceutical chemicals, but growing evidence
suggests cause for concern. Studies show that estrogen-like chemicals in sewage have skewed the sex ratio in some fish so
much that there are nine female fish for every male.
Other studies have demonstrated that synthetic estrogen from birth
control pills can decimate the fish of an entire lake by impairing sperm and egg development in the fish population.
The good news is that advanced (tertiary) sewage treatment removes 75-98% of synthetic estrogen.
The bad news is that
we have a long way to go until all of our sewage receives advanced treatment. We need to commit resources to research in
this area and to responding to any threats this research reveals.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Five Connecticut companies violated standards for heavy metals,
cyanide and other highly toxic chemicals for years. After being
threatened with lawsuits, four of the companies, Electric Boat
(Groton), Whyco Finishing Technologies (Thomaston), and
Allegheny Ludlum and Cytec Industries, both in Wallingford,
agreed to end their discharges and pay fines directed towards
water improvements. The fifth company, Atlantic Wire (Branford),
closed its doors and admitted criminal liability.
New York records show that the number of toxic chemical
discharge violations has decreased significantly over the past
four years. However, a handful of companies are responsible for
hundreds of violations every year. These include violations related
to mercury, lead and arsenic that are tens-to-hundreds of times
their legal limit.
New York and Connecticut can reduce violations of toxic chemical
limits by devoting more resources to enforcement of discharge
permits. Such action will address the current toxic releases in
Suffolk County and will prevent future problems in Connecticut.
Safe Fish Consumption for Long Island Sound
Most fish caught in Long Island Sound and adjoining waters may be eaten
Women of childbearing age and children are considered high risk. They may eat
bluefish under 13" at will, but should limit bluefish 13-25" to once a week or
less, and should avoid bluefish over 25". The high risk group should limit striped
bass to less than once a month, and consume no more than one meal a month
of American eel and of weakfish under 25", and no weakfish over 25".
Adult men and women over childbearing age are considered low risk. Once a
month they may eat striped bass and weakfish over 25”, and once a week,
smaller weakfish or American eel. Small bluefish may be eaten once a week,
bluefish over 25” once a month.
Everyone should avoid eating the hepatopancreas of lobsters and crabs (the
greenish matter in the body section, also called tomalley or liver), as it
accumulates high levels of PCBs, cadmium, and dioxins.
For freshwater fish, check your local advisories.
OSPREYS ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE TO THE PRESENCE OF TOXIC CHEMICALS IN THE ENVIRONMENT.
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
infrastructure were presented through real world case studies built
by large property owners as well as municipal and state
Presentations included landscape design drawings, photographs of
the construction process, and testing data from three different
types of retrofit projects in Portland, OR. One – a $17,000 green
street designed to handle 80% of 25-year-storm rainfall over a
catchment of 10,000 square feet – also serves as a traffic calming
feature and has been outlined in a “green streets and parking lots”
guidebook to show other municipalities how to save money,
manage stormwater, and benefit city planning. Other projects
combine tree planting for co-benefits like control of flooding and
runoff pollution, urban greening, carbon sequestration and to cool
urban heat islands.
Local examples from New York and Connecticut were highlighted
at the 20th annual Long Island Sound Citizen's Summit, Green
Cities/Blue Waters, held in Bridgeport, CT, during the spring of
2010. Across both states, green infrastructure projects are being
accomplished site by site as affordable property improvements. In
new development areas, field visits to a local Connecitcut LID
project reveals how the ground plane can be designed to mitigate
stormwater runoff. Paving surface slope, pavement materials,
threshold design, area and depth of catchment, soil composition,
and vegetation are fundamental design decisions made with
respect to site conditions. Success requires accurate calculations
of surrounding hard surfaces and knowledge of average rainfall
rates, as well as practical considerations like the capacity to
amend soil and select plants that can thrive in both saturated and
Planning successful green infrastructure demands coordination
among a range of experts. New professional partnerships are
needed in the green design process to choose attractive, low
maintenance vegetation that absorbs rainwater effectively.
Specialists qualified to verify soil amendment and planting plans
can work with town planners and engineers who may be
concerned that vegetated swales will not be as fail-safe as
conventional curbs and drains. Collaborative efforts of
professionals, non-profits, scientists and community members are
needed to assess complex urban environmental conditions and
cultural interests that influence realistic opportunities. From this
cooperation, lasting and productive partnerships can grow.
Whether projects originate through the watershed planning
process, or from the grassroots good will of volunteers,
collaboration between municipal planning departments and
regional water authorities can result in beautiful and cost-effective
quality-of-life gains, along with significant benefits to our local
26 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
CONNECTICUT GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE:
CLEAN WATER, SITE BY SITE by Mary Rickel Pelletier*
Most transportation and utility infrastructure projects depend upon
years – even decades – of planning and billions of dollars in
implementation costs. Across Connecticut, however, green
infrastructure projects are being accomplished site by site as
affordable property-improvement projects. By reducing the volume
of rainwater that is shunted into the sewer system, green
infrastructure reduces the need for expensive expansions of
centralized wastewater treatment.
parking lots) ought
to first drain into
into the sewer
system. The challenge is to design the catchment so that its soil
and vegetation can absorb standing water within 36 hours. While
centralized wastewater treatment cannot be eliminated, green
infrastructure can reduce costs dramatically – for grassroots gain.
Green infrastructure is a decentralized method that intercepts and
absorbs rain naturally – such as water for trees and shrubs or
ground water recharge. Utilizing strategies outlined by low impact
development (LID) research, the term “green infrastructure”
emphasizes the value of living systems, especially plants, as an
economic infrastructure asset.
On-site stormwater management strategies contribute to regional
watershed-based planning goals. While watershed-based planning
can maximize regional and municipal cost benefits, any property
owner can learn to manage rainwater on-site with green
infrastructure. Homeowners can divert rooftop downspouts into
rain gardens or rain barrels. Corporate and institutional property
managers can create scenic landscape features and install
permeable pavement in parking areas to capture stormwater
runoff. Municipal planners can protect and restore stream buffers
that soak up rainwater and mitigate downstream flooding. Green
infrastructure refines the functional relationships between building
and nature at any scale of development and in any setting, urban
An impressive range of projects from across the country were
presented during the July 2009 US Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) workshop “Managing Wet Weather with Green
Infrastructure” in Hartford. The affordable benefits of green
Spotlight: Green Infrastructure
A summary of the Niantic River Watershed Protection Plan, Connecticut’s
first EPA-approved watershed management plan, is available online:
A partial listing of Connecticut “low impact development” projects are listed
on the NEMO website: http://nemo.uconn.edu/successes/case_studies.htm.
NEMO (Non-point Education for Municipal Officials) is a program of the
University of Connecticut’s Center for Land-use Education and Research (CLEAR).
For the US EPA study, “Protecting Water Resources with Higher Density
Development” see http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/
Powerpoint presentations on retrofits, system operation and maintenance,
the EPA Water Quality Scorecard, and New England cold-climate projects,
as well as a planning guidelines with detailed diagrams for green streets and
parking lots, are posted on the US EPA green infrastructure website:
*Mary Rickel Pelletier has provided independent design, research, and advocacy
on a range of innovative green projects for over a decade. She is currently
Director of the Park River Watershed Revitalization Initiative, a project of the
Farmington River Watershed Association. Her essay “Green Infrastructure for
Blue Urban Watersheds” was included in Green Communities, a joint publication
of the American Planning Association (APA) Planners Press and the National
27 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Watershed Management, Low Impact Development and the DEEP
Watershed Based Planning protects and improves the quality of a watershed’s natural resources by implementing land and water use practices comprehensively. The
Connecticut DEEP’s Watershed Management Program addresses water resource issues from an integrated watershed perspective by dividing the state into five major
basins along natural watershed boundaries, within which DEEP Watershed Managers assist communities in forming partnerships, drafting watershed based plans, and
implementing environmental projects to restore and protect Connecticut's water quality.
Developing a watershed based management plan is key to the restoration of an impaired waterbody. The DEEP's Impaired Waters List identifies specific nonpoint source
impairments; the plan focuses on reducing or removing the impairment so the waterbody can meet water quality standards. To qualify for Section 319 Clean Water Act
funding to implement low impact development (LID) and green infrastructure projects to mitigate the impairment, plans must address nine elements specified by the US
EPA. Developing a watershed based plan can also help find and leverage other funding for implementation projects like the improvements to East Lyme’s
Recently the Connecticut DEEP added an LID Coordinator to assist municipal, state and federal partners with information, outreach materials, and technical coordination.
The program is building relationships with land use agencies and stakeholders across the state to identify and remove barriers to LID and implement projects.
The parking lot at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach in East Lyme, CT, serves
as a “low impact development” (LID) demonstration project for
various on-site stormwater management technologies.
Stormwater overflow from the lot, which is paved with eleven
different pervious products, drains into two infiltration detention
basins specially planted with suitable vegetation. In addition,
there are two structural stormwater treatment products: a Filterra
bioretention system, which captures stormwater from Baptist
Lane, and a ConTech CDS (deflective separation/swirl technology)
unit that separates floating pollutants and road runoff sediments
from 22 acres of downtown Niantic, north of the lot. The unit’s
swirl technology can be observed through a viewing grate.
Completed in the fall of 2008, the 100-car lot and detention
basins cost $240,000. Improvements to the Hole-in-the-Wall
Beach were informed by the Niantic River Watershed
Management Planning process, funded by the Connecticut
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)
VEGETATED CATCHMENT, SISKIYOU STREET
IN PORTLAND, OREGON
28 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Stewardship is about building connections. It means protecting and
managing spaces where humans can connect with nature. The sum
of these individual connections creates a regional consciousness of
the natural context in which we live. To promote this ethic, the
bi-state Stewardship Initiative has identified 33 inaugural
stewardship areas throughout the Sound as places with significant
ecological or recreational value. These sites are priority areas for
restoration, protection and management.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The federal Long Island Sound Stewardship Act (LISSA) was
designed to fund land acquisition, restoration projects and other
stewardship activities. While this is a great start, the related federal
funding is far less than what is needed to make timely and
significant progress in the protection and enhancement of these
stewardship sites. In both New York and Connecticut, LISSA partners
are proactively working to create state matching funds. Meanwhile
the two states continue to conduct needs assessments at existing
stewardship sites and to review additional sites for potential
The public’s ability to connect with the Sound is often limited by the
quantity and quality of public access points. Existing access points
are often restricted to town residents, ill-maintained and ill-marked
by private developers who provide public access as part of a permit,
plagued by inadequate parking and bathroom facilities, or located
adjacent to private homes, resulting in a public that has few
opportunities to access the very areas it is being asked to steward.
Stewardship: Our Special Coastal Places
• The stewardship program aims to preserve
and manage the last great coastal spaces and
to reconnect people with the Sound.
• $25 million was authorized for the
Long Island Sound Stewardship Act,
and while no money has been
directly appropriated exclusively for
the act, other limited federal funding has
provided acquisition opportunities.
• Greater federal appropriation and matching
state funds are needed to protect stewardship
sites, while inventorying and evaluating public
and private access points will improve
people’s ability to experience the Sound.
Alley Pond Park
& Davids Island
Lower Connecticut River
Plum, Little &
Great Gull Islands
Jamesport State Park
Shoreham - Baiting Hollow Mount Sinai &
Port Jefferson Harbors
Stony Brook Harbor
West Rock Ridge
areas have been
the Sound as being
29 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Greater federal appropriation and matching state funds are
urgently needed to protect stewardship sites and to manage
them for both wildlife conservation and human enjoyment.
Both public and private access points should be
inventoried and evaluated for true accessibility. Aspects to
be evaluated should include adequate signage, parking, facilities,
setbacks from private development, and overall upkeep and
As part of the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative (LISSI),
The Long Island Sound Study, The Nature Conservancy,
Stonington Land Trust, and Connecticut DEP partnered to
purchase a 48-acre parcel at Barn Island (Stonington, CT) known
as the Crowley property in February 2009. This purchase
expanded the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area to more
than 1,060 contiguous acres of coastal forest, tidal marsh and
grassland habitats. In addition to being one of the initial 33
stewardship sites, Barn Island has hosted more than 30 different
research projects over the last six decades. This latest purchase
will ensure that the last remaining unprotected salt marsh within
the Island’s tidal wetland system is protected for years to come.
The Nissequogue River Watershed covers 40 square miles (mostly
in Smithtown, Long Island), and is a unique case study that
demonstrates the great potential of the Long Island Sound
Stewardship Initiative. Using the principals of the LISSI, a
Stewardship Action Plan has been developed by a coalition of
stakeholders representing diverse interests. Their goal is to
protect and enhance this local landscape comprised of a wide
array of species, varied ecosystems and an assortment of
BARN ISLAND, CT
STATE PARK, NY (LEFT).
Photo credit: Robert Freudenberg
30 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
In 1985 Congress directed the US Environmental Protection
Agency to sponsor the Long Island Sound Study, a management
conference that involves federal and state governments, interstate
and local agencies, industry, universities and environmental
groups. The Comprehensive Conservation and Management
Plan (CCMP) developed by this group 17 years ago
identifies six priority areas for the Sound. The blueprint sets
goals, milestones and action steps that can help turn things
around, providing information and estimates on the “how” and
“how much” along the way.
Hypoxia describes a level of dissolved oxygen so low it negatively
affects bottom water habitats and animals. Excess nitrogen is
believed to be the one of the of hypoxia (it helps algae grow, but
when the algae die and settle to the bottom of the Sound, they use
up the available oxygen in their decay); reducing the amount of
nitrogen is expected to assist in reducing hypoxia. In 1994 it was
estimated that 93,600 tons of nitrogen per year enter the Sound, of
which 53,700 tons are human contributions that can be managed
and curbed. The goal was to reduce the most severe instances of
hypoxia by freezing inputs at 1990 levels and then methodically
eliminating 24,000 tons of nitrogen inputs by 2014, as outlined in
the follow-up 2000 Nitrogen Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
Toxic Substances are both natural and man-made substances
that can negatively impact the environment or human health.
Goals included enhanced pollution prevention programs that target
toxic inputs, additional sediment evaluation and monitoring for
toxins, and greater communication with the public.
Pathogen Contamination, which comes primarily from combined
sewer overflows, nonpoint source runoff, sewage plant
malfunctions and vessel discharges, can close beaches and
shellfish beds and cause illness in bathers and those who eat
undercooked contaminated shellfish. Reducing instances of
contamination depends on fully funding nonpoint source pollution
control programs, infrastructure improvements to correct CSOs and
sewage malfunctions, and enforcement of regulations on sewage
discharges and hookups.
Floatable Debris is trash that floats in waterbodies or washes up
on shore. It is a major cause of mortality for wildlife, a hazard to
boaters and swimmers, and an aesthetic and economic burden to
municipalities. Most floatable debris in the Sound is litter from
beachgoers or boaters and waste carried downstream by rivers or
stormwater systems. This must be dealt with both at the end point
and at the source. Every year, volunteers pick up thousands of
pounds of trash from beaches; the CCMP recommends doubling
the cleanups and investment in enforcement and education
programs in order to reduce the amount of litter. The other
component is preventing debris from reaching the Sound in the
first place through stormwater abatement.
Living Marine Resources and Their Habitats include the
finfish, shellfish, birds, mammals and other animals that spend
part or all of their lives in the Sound or its watershed, as well as
the plant life and ecosystems that support them. The major causes
of harm to the Sound’s living resources are water pollution,
destruction of habitat and overharvesting. The CCMP urges state
and federal agencies to meet existing habitat management goals
and enhance ongoing programs in tidal wetlands restoration and
management of threatened harvestable species.
Land Use and Development of the Sound’s 16,000-square-mile
watershed has a significant impact on the estuary’s water quality.
The CCMP stresses five critical areas for improvement: reduce
nonpoint source pollution from developed areas; minimize
damages from new development; make information, training,
financing and technical assistance more available to
municipalities, trade organizations and the public; conserve open
space through watershed-based planning; and improve public
access to the Sound.
Learn more about the CCMP and the Long Island Sound
What Exactly is the “CCMP”?
Invasive Species in Long Island Sound
An invasive species is a non-native plant or animal that aggressively establishes
itself in a new territory to the detriment of native species.
Around Long Island Sound, the common reed (Phragmites) out-competes native
marsh grasses to form dense monocultures. These are less robust than diverse
coastal marshlands and provide inadequate bird and animal habitat. Many other
invasive species presently occupy the waters of Long Island Sound and there are
continuously arriving via ship ballast water and as "hitchhikers" on boats and
boat lines. Warmer waters associated with global warming have extended the
ranges of many species – making the Sound's waters suitable environments for
organisms like the lionfish, a poisonous tropical species. This fish can now be
found in the eastern Sound during the summer. Invasive species may foul boats
and pipes, and can also have major economic impacts. For example, predation by
the invasive green crab has contributed to the decline of the softshell clam
industry in the Northeast.
The New York DEC and Connecticut DEEP maintain information on problem
species and containment protocols. For further reading on invasive species of
Long Island Sound: http://www.seagrant.uconn.edu/whatwedo/ais/listour.php
Living Marine Resources and
Land Use and Development
of the Sound
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
The fact that Plum Island – a federally
recognized stewardship site – is up for sale to
the highest bidder is a clear symbol that
intense development pressures continue to put
pressure on Long Island Sound. The Sound,
surrounded by some of the densest population in
the United States and with a watershed that reaches all the way
to Canada, has unique challenges that require federal and
inter-state cooperation to manage. One of the most important
tools for protecting and restoring the region has been the Long
Island Sound Restoration Act (LISRA).
For over two decades, this type of legislation has provided the
Long Island Sound Study with funding to implement clean water
improvements, habitat restoration projects, scientific research and
educational programs around Long Island Sound. The distressed
communities program has funded municipal sewer upgrades to
stem the tide of raw sewage that raises the Sound’s nitrogen level
and leads to the low oxygen area that is harmful to marine life.
Stormwater initiatives and pharmaceutical take-back programs
have reduced the amount of chemicals and pollutants the region
dumps into the Sound. Habitat restoration projects have re-opened
rivers to fish migration and spawning, planted sea grass, rebuilt
marsh and dune ecosystems, and protected coastal lands from
unfettered development. Research funded by LISRA guides these
and other ongoing initiatives, while education and outreach
activities provide the information necessary for individuals to take
action in their own lives.
LISRA expired in 2010, and its sister bill, the Long Island Sound
Stewardship Act (LISSA), expires this year. It is vital that they be
reauthorized to ensure continued progress. The states and federal
entities like NOAA rely on this critical funding to leverage their
investments in Long Island Sound programs. It is crucial that
Congress reauthorize LISRA and LISSA this year and appropriate
increased funding to ensure we continue on the path toward a
healthy and vibrant Long Island Sound.
Long Island Sound Restoration Act
An investment in Long Island Sound is an investment in the entire region. Not only does the Sound return $9.4 billion a year to the regional economy in
marine trades, fishing, tourism and other industries, but there are less quantifiable benefits as well. The 20 million people who live within 50 miles of the
Sound enjoy sailing, kayaking, fishing and walking along the beaches and coastal trails that ring the water. It’s a major stop-over point on the migration routes
of many bird species, and small, relatively undeveloped islands provide safe resting spots on the journey.
Long Island Sound Study National Estuary Program and
LISRA Funding History
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
32 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Over the past two years, the Citizens Advisory Committee of
the Long Island Sound Study and community stakeholders
have rolled up their sleeves and dusted off the CCMP and
other plans related to the Sound’s health. By paring the plans
to their essentials, integrating goals with one another, and
estimating investments needed for each component,
stakeholders created a picture of the Sound’s progress –
identifying which benchmarks have been met and which have
not, which goals are no longer relevant and which need to be
added, which parts of the Sound’s environment need extra
attention and which are rebounding faster than expected.
From there, areas of overlapping need were identified to
determine where the most value lies in terms of ecosystem
protection, public access, and return on investment for
industry and communities. This coordinated effort has helped
show us where we have been, where we are going, and
what it will take to get there.
The conclusion of this process marked the beginning of a
new chapter for advocacy on behalf of Long Island Sound. In
summer 2011, the Citizens Advisory Committee approved a
ten-year plan called “SoundVision: An Action Plan for Long
Island Sound,” and a two-year companion piece. The plan
identifies four key topic areas around which to focus
discussion and action:
· Protecting Clean Water to Achieve a Healthy Sound
· Creating Safe and Thriving Places for All Sound Creatures
· Building Long Island Sound Communities that Work
· Investing in an Economically Vibrant Long Island Sound
The CAC embarked on an eight-stop tour around the Sound,
often accompanied by the Schooner SoundWaters, to bring the
SoundVision Action Plan to citizens and to encourage residents
of Connecticut and New York to feel connected to the Sound.
Legislators from New York and Connecticut are joining
together to create a bi-state Long Island Sound caucus to
address the needs of the Sound and surrounding communities.
The Long Island Sound community has proved it has the
patience, openness, and dedication necessary to identify its
common goals. Together, we can achieve our shared vision of
Long Island Sound as it should be – clean, safe, abounding
with life, and a source of both recreational and commercial
activities. To find out more and read the SoundVision report,
Restoring Long Island Sound’s Future: Revisiting and
Refreshing Our Vision for the Sound
Nearly two decades ago, a plan to restore an ailing estuary
began to take shape. A unique partnership that included
government, non-profits, universities, private industry and the
public uncovered a common hope for our regional treasure:
“The vision…for the Sound is of waters that are
clean, clear, safe to swim in, and charged with life.
It is a vision of waters nourished and protected
by extensive coastal wetlands, by publicly
accessible, litter-free beaches and preserves, and
of undeveloped islands. It is a vision of abundant and
diverse wildlife, of flourishing commercial fisheries,
of harbors accessible to the boating public, and of a
regional consciousness and a way of life that
protects and sustains the ecosystem.”
“(Listen to the Sound: A Citizens’ Agenda. National Audubon Society. 1990.)
From that excitement emerged the Comprehensive
Conservation and Management Plan, which identified six key
drivers on the road to Long Island Sound’s recovery. Thanks
to significant federal, state, municipal and private efforts
and investments, there have been numerous successes since
the CCMP’s adoption in 1994, including the development of
new plans like the Stewardship and Habitat Restoration
Initiatives. However, much has changed since that first plan.
The Sound is facing threats not imagined twenty years ago
– once-thriving fisheries are collapsing, sea levels are
beginning to rise and water quality remains an issue. These
challenges demand that we reevaluate the goals of the past,
develop and integrate plans for the future and reinvigorate
33 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
A recycling cooling system would reuse the water multiple times,
thereby reducing the destruction of fish and marine life by up to
98%. Yet Millstone was allowed to operate on an expired permit
for 11 years without being required to upgrade their antiquated
cooling system. This is despite the fact that such a system is being
installed by Millstone’s owners at their other facilities outside
Connecticut. Connecticut Fund for the Environment, its program
Save the Sound, and Soundkeeper intervened as legal parties in
Millstone's most recent permit proceedings. As a result, the permit
proceedings were finally completed and a new permit was issued
that required that (1) Millstone install variable frequency drive to
slow the intake and reduce the short term
destruction of marine life, (2) Millstone
complete a study identifying specific recycling
cooling systems and the feasibility of installing
them, and (3) DEEP make a final decision as to
what type of cooling system is required at
Millstone based upon the study. As of July 2011, the variable
frequency drives have been installed and are operating and the
report that will allow DEEP to make its final decision will be
completed in summer 2012.
Dredging is necessary to ensure that harbors and industrial
areas remain functional. Currently, much of the dredged sediment
is disposed of in Long Island Sound, and a dredged material
management plan for the entire Sound is needed to avoid any
long-term environmental damage. Steps are being been taken
towards the development of such a plan. While an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) for the western Long Island Sound has
been completed, the EIS for the eastern Sound and a full regional
Dredge Material Management Plan have not. Federal funding is
urgently needed to complete this process. It is also critical that
the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act's “Ambro
Amendment,” which requires stringent testing for sediments
disposed of in Long Island Sound, be protected.
New York State’s denial of a coastal permit to Broadwater was a
huge success. The four-year fight by thousands of citizens to get
to this point highlights the need for a comprehensive plan that
addresses how to balance today's usage needs with the
long-term legacy of Long Island Sound that we hope to
leave to our children. Until we develop cohesive criteria to
manage Long Island Sound’s valuable resources – and evaluate
projects in a balanced way – we will always face these battles.
New York’s new Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation
Council is one example of an attempt to enact ecosystem-based
management of larger waterbodies. Its process and findings could
serve as a model for our LIS regional planners
34 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Use Conflicts occur when there is perceived competition
between economic and environmental needs – sometimes the
best interests of the environment and the public win out,
sometimes special interests prevail, and sometimes common
ground and compromise can create a lasting solution.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Broadwater is the floating liquefied natural gas industrial
complex proposed for the middle of Long Island Sound by Shell
Oil and TransCanada. The project would have irrevocably
damaged the Sound’s wildlife and limited use of the Sound for
recreation and fishing despite concrete and viable alternatives.
After years of debate in the region, New York denied a coastal
permit that would have allowed Broadwater to proceed. While
this was a victory for the Sound, New York and Connecticut will
need to continue to stand strong in the face of appeals and future
permit proceedings on other energy-related projects.
The Millstone nuclear power plant on the Waterford, CT, shoreline
takes in over 3,000 Olympic swimming pools worth of water (two
billion gallons) from Long Island Sound each day to cool its nuclear
reactors. This suction kills billions of fish larvae and other marine
organisms and is believed to have contributed to the severe crash
of the Niantic River’s winter flounder population.
• Without thoughtful planning, conflicts in use
can threaten the Sound’s environments.
• In denying a coastal permit to Broadwater,
New York chose environmental protection over
haphazard privatized energy development.
• Connecticut’s Millstone power plant must be
upgraded to reduce environmental damage.
• New York and Connecticut should continue
cooperating in the development of a regional
Dredge Material Management Plan to protect
the long term health of Long Island Sound.
The 840-acre Plum Island, NY, has long
been the home to a federal research
facility, but it also has a less notorious
secret: its vast undeveloped spaces have
become a de facto wildlife sanctuary that
provides nesting areas for at-risk birds.
Just ten miles off of Connecticut’s shore, Plum Island –
along with its neighboring Gull Islands – has been
identified by our state and federal governments as part of
the Long Island Sound Stewardship System, a network of
the region’s last great coastal places that exhibit
“exemplary” habitat or public access opportunities
deserving of special restoration or protection attention.
And in that vision, there is incredible potential: miles of
trails winding through coastal forests, summer visitors
enjoying sandy beaches and the cool surf.
However, the federal government is preparing to sell Plum
Island to the highest bidder, putting this rare island at risk
of intensive private development that could ruin wildlife
habitats, pollute the Sound, and preclude future public
access. It doesn’t have to be that way. The undeveloped
majority of the island could become part of the US Fish
and Wildlife Service's refuge systems. The island could be
a place to connect with healthy marine ecosystems and
the role they play, showing students and citizens the
necessity of maintaining marshes and beaches, without
development that impedes natural cycles.
Plum Island is a bellwether for the fate of the Sound –
and we must act to protect this jewel. Extensive private
development is the wrong answer and an uninspiring
response to this kind of potential. In preserving this
landscape now we are also preserving our options for the
future. This tiny island is, if we care to look, nothing short
PLUM ISLAND, NY
S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
36 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE –
LOCAL EFFECTS AND LOCAL RESPONSES
Climate change presents us with the environmental challenge of
our generation. Average global temperatures have been steadily
rising and current atmospheric concentrations of two important
greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, are at historic
highs, with future projections for continued temperature increases
far beyond anything the globe has seen in millions of years. The
scientific community has concluded that the increase in
atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 150 years is a result of
human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and
deforestation. Most scientists agree that these high
concentrations of heat-trapping gases are driving the current
changes to our climate.
Warming temperatures are already changing natural
systems throughout the world, and Long Island Sound
is no exception. We must take swift and immediate
action to address this phenomenon in order to reduce
adverse consequences on the planet’s air quality,
biodiversity, and natural resources and ecosystems.
New York and Connecticut have recently made major
strides to reduce their contribution to global climate
change. The 2008 Connecticut legislature passed an
economy-wide cap on greenhouse gases that will
reduce emissions by 10% below 1990 levels by 2020
and 80% below 2001 levels by 2050. New York
recently created a climate change office to spearhead
scientific analysis, community outreach and regional partnerships
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, those two states have joined with others to require
steep decreases in greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles
and both states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas
Initiative, the first cap and trade program in the United States to
decrease greenhouse emissions from power plants.
One of the greatest challenges for Connecticut and the region will
be transportation, development and land use planning. Without
careful decision-making, emissions from increased auto use may
overwhelm reductions in greenhouse gases from other sectors.
Fish Species Movement
SPECIES PER TOW
Warm Temperate Species
Cold Temperate Species
MILLIONS OF POUNDS
In 1999, following a year with record-high temperatures, the lobster
population of Long Island Sound was decimated by a neurological parasite.
Many scientists believe that heat stress made the lobsters susceptible to
Long Island Sound is the southern end of the lobsters' common
range, and further warming of its waters may make the environment
unsuitable for them.With global temperature increases expected to continue,
there is little hope that the lobsters of Long Island Sound will ever recover.
Winter flounder and other cold-water species in the Sound
are moving out and species that thrive in warmer waters,
like summer flounder, weakfish, scup, sea robin and lion
fish, are moving in.
37 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Sea level rise threatens coastal wetlands, beaches, waterfront
homes, highways, railroad tracks, sewage treatment plants and
aquifers. Those living along the coast and the regional economy
must start preparing now for future sea level rise, as the pace of
change this century may outstrip expectations and scenarios
developed only ten years ago. While estimates published in 2007
predicted global sea level would rise by seven to 23 inches by the
end of this century, this is now considered conservative. Factoring
in the melting of polar ice caps, some studies now indicate a rise
of three to six feet in the same time frame. Already the coastline
of the United States is changing – and Long Island Sound is no
Rising global temperatures cause sea level to rise both by melting
land ice and through thermal expansion of warmer ocean waters.
The risk that ice sheets may become unstable and disintegrate
more rapidly than foreseen till now is real, and the coastal zone
should have a plan to deal with such effects. Salt marshes should
be vigorously protected and restored: they serve as nurseries for
many marine species, are a carbon sink and form an important
protective buffer between the sea and land. (The devastating
effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were likely worsened
by the degraded state of local coastal marshes.) However,
marshes cannot migrate upland with rising seas because coastal
development such as highways, railroad tracks and urbanized
regions are in their way. We must start adapting now.
Administrators of coastal infrastructure should develop, and begin
implementing, plans for an ever-closer sea front.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
New York State has created an Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem
Conservation Council, which has begun a coordinated effort to
address sea level rise as part of a comprehensive coastal
management plan. New York City’s PlaNYC includes protection of
urban infrastructure in the lower Hudson estuary. Connecticut has
created an adaptation subcommittee tasked with assessing the
impacts of climate change on infrastructure, natural resources,
habitats, public health and agriculture/aquaculture.
Recommendations were made in summer 2010 and are presented
SEA LEVEL RISE ADAPTATION
• Sea level rise threatens coastal habitat
and infrastructure, while warming waters
disturb the marine environment.
• Connecticut is restoring high-elevation
marshes, which are more resilient to sea
level rise. New York has begun
coordinating and investigating a
comprehensive sea level rise assessment.
• Both states need coastal zone
management plans that incorporate sea
level rise adaptation and neither state has
yet invested in protecting upland areas.
Government agencies in New York and Connecticut should work
together to build a flexible, coordinated response to this complex
• Development of a mechanism to ensure agency cooperation
between the two states on issues related to coastal
management and sea level rise, including a regularly updated
vulnerability and economic impact assessment which can be
used to raise public awareness, update laws and inform land
• Funding state agency recommendations.
• Permitting and encouraging naturalized/vegetated buffers and
other methods of shoreline protection that do not destroy
coastal habitat. Prioritizing restoration of the marshes most
resilient to sea level rise and concurrent protection of upland
areas so marshes can spread inland. Investigating and
investing in rolling conservation easements to protect public
38 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
over the next century.
1foot to 3 feet
New England’s sea level will rise
COASTAL RESILIENCE AND ADAPTATION IN THE FACE
OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Today, the world’s leading climatologists agree that global climate
change will be expressed through the inundation of coastal cities
by rising sea levels, extreme heat waves in selected urban areas,
and reoccurring drought conditions in some places and increased
rain and flood conditions in others. They predict that climate
change could wipe out significant areas of agriculture. Even if the
world’s carbon emissions were significantly cut right now, many
of the effects of climate change may continue for many more
centuries. Currently, climatologists are not debating whether the
negative impacts of climate change will occur – in fact they are
happening right now – but are instead studying and modeling
how fast and extreme they will be.
Here in the Northeast and Long Island Sound, various climate
models predict that sea level will rise between one and three feet
over the next century. The combined impacts of sea level rise
with the increased probability of extreme storm or hurricane
events create a situation where people, plants, animals and
buildings are at risk from damaging storm surges along the
shoreline. Entire cities and towns are in harm’s way, along with
many natural habitats.
Along the Atlantic Coast, the scientific community, environmental
organizations and policy makers are beginning to look at ways
that communities can plan for climate change and assist nature in
becoming more resilient and adaptive. This means the use of a
variety of habitat restoration, land use planning, protection and
best management and policy strategies. If living systems in the
Long Island Sound area, like coastal forests, rivers, tidal creeks,
salt marshes and sand dunes, are given the opportunity to adapt
in response to our changing climate, then we are also helping
ourselves. For example, we rely not only on the food supplied by
salt marshes, but also on their ability to provide a significant
buffer against storm surges and protect coastal property.
The Nature Conservancy is embarking on an important initiative in
Long Island Sound to develop science-based strategies and
planning tools to assist people and their communities while
protecting critical habitats throughout the Sound. One tool,
ClimateWizard, is a web-based program that enables technical
and non-technical audiences to access climate change
information from leading scientific organizations and visualize the
impacts anywhere around Long Island Sound (visit
www.climatewizard.org). The program allows users to view both
changes in climate over the last fifty years and predictions for the
future, zooming to view the whole globe or targeted areas. The
Conservancy, along with other partners, is also developing a
web-based decision support tool (Coastal Resilience) that will
enable municipal and state leaders to constructively develop
adaptation solutions for both people and nature as sea level rises
and storm surges increase.
The states of New York and Connecticut are just beginning to
incorporate the threats of climate change, including sea level rise,
into their coastal management plans and regulations.
Spotlight: The Sound’s Resilience
39 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Spotlight: The Sound’s Food Web
MISSING LINKS: WHAT LONG ISLAND SOUND’S
FOOD WEB MAY BE TELLING US
Western Long Island Sound has seen profound
environmental and ecological changes over
the last century, and many scientists who
study it are concerned about what those
changes mean for the Sound’s food web.
Microscopic single-celled algae form the base of its
food chain, along with strands of algae attached to rocks or
floating in the water. Underwater vegetation is now found only in
a few locations in the easternmost Sound. Feeding on the
phytoplankton are filter feeders like oysters and other shellfish, as
well as abundant copepods, tiny shrimp-like creatures that are
themselves a food source for many fish. Snails including
periwinkles, sea urchins and the small Lacuna are important
herbivores; in turn they feed a whole host of other marine animals.
There are a number of environmental stresses to Long Island
Sound. They include changes on land (deforestation, impervious
surfaces) which have increased the freshwater runoff into the
Sound. Contaminants such as copper, zinc and mercury, as well as
organic compounds, have accumulated in sediment in some
areas, creating toxic conditions for seafloor species. The nutrients
nitrogen and phosphorus have fueled large phytoplankton blooms,
as well as larger algae like sea lettuce. Phytoplankton blooms are
difficult to map because they come and go, but studies suggest
that phytoplankton may increase in the western Sound where
nutrient levels are high. These phytoplankton blooms increase the
amount of organic carbon in the Sound, and changes in land use
have increased the flux of carbon from the land as well. Some of
this carbon is oxidized in the water column and at the seafloor,
leading to the seasonal hypoxia.
Disappearance of large oyster reefs has impacted the ecosystem,
because oysters are efficient filter feeders, and overfishing has
decimated the once super-abundant menhaden fish. Blooming
phytoplankton species can produce toxins that are taken up by
shellfish, making them hazardous for human consumption.
Copepods have increased ten-fold since the 1950s, possibly as a
result of more phytoplankton or the demise of predators such as
the menhaden. Tracing cause and effect in food web relations can
Changing climate is another stressor, with warmer-water species
moving into the Sound from the South, while colder species are
leaving. Invasive species (European green crab, Japanese shore
crab, Pacific compound sea squirt and some seaweeds) that were
accidentally introduced to the Sound now thrive in its warmer
waters. The freshening of the Sound and warmer waters may also
make the hypoxia worse and stimulate algal blooms native to
more southerly waters. Events like the lobster die-off in 1998,
oyster diseases and rapid changes in abundance of starfish and
jellyfish may all be evidence of this environmental stress.
When organisms live under such stressed conditions, they are less
able to resist disease, parasites and hypoxia, as well as cope with
changes in temperature and pH. To keep this ecosystem
functioning and restore its health, it is essential that we reduce
the pollutants flowing into it. We have already seen major
improvements in water quality in rivers leading into the Sound
with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and the region is
working to reduce human-caused nitrogen inputs. But more must
be done, and significant investment is needed to fund research on
how the changing climate affects the Sound’s food web, with
issues ranging from identifying priority species for protection, to
better understanding the chemistry of the Sound’s waters.
Biological solutions can be both
40 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
FOR EXAMPLE, filter-feeders such as oysters remove
phytoplankton from the water, preventing decomposition
and associated oxygen consumption. Increasing shellfish
farming could improve water quality, reduce hypoxia and add
to the regional economy. Algae take up nitrogen and
phosphorus during photosynthesis, so harvesting algae could
also remove these nutrients from the Sound. The algae
could even become the basis for a new biodiesel industry!
Biological solutions can be both
41 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
42 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Anyone who thinks one person
can’t change a whole town has
never met Ann Berman. Ann
chairs the Environmental Concerns
Coalition of Milford and its
“Freedom Lawn” movement,
which persuades local residents
to free their lawns of pesticides
and chemical fertilizers. She and
other volunteers go door-to-door,
educating homeowners about how
to maintain an attractive lawn while still protecting their health
and the environment.
“Once I knocked on a door,” Ann said, “a gentleman told me a
story of how his two dogs died shortly after spraying his yard
with chemical pesticides. After learning how he could create a
freedom lawn, he has now become one of our most fervent
freedom lawn contestants each year.” Another time a mother
told Ann that her children had become sick after playing in the
yard – a day after pesticides had been sprayed. These stories and
many others motivated Ann to get involved in legislative work.
Because of Ann, Milford became the first town in Connecticut to
pass a resolution requesting that all residents forgo the use of
pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Next, Ann took her campaign
to the state level. She successfully lobbied for a law that bans all
pesticide use at schools for kindergarten through eighth grade.
Now, she is working to get the same law passed for high schools.
Ann is optimistic about the improvements that Milford and the
state of Connecticut have made in enforcing environmental
regulations. “Recently, a citizen in Milford spotted an out-of-state
car pulling up to a storm drain, and the driver proceeded to dump
oil into a storm drain,” said Ann with excitement. “The police
came, caught the offender, and now I hear that the criminal will
get a fine of $25,000 or a year in prison. Now, that is progress!”
Ann lives on the shore of Long Island Sound, which she says has
been a blessing and at times, a spiritual life-saver. She wants
people to know that in addition to protecting their own health,
joining the Freedom Lawn movement also protects the Sound’s
health. “When I see something beautiful like Long Island Sound,
I feel obligated to protect it,” said Ann. “Each homeowner has a
responsibility to protect the water that runs off their property
because, eventually, the water all ends up in the Sound.”
To find out more about the Freedom Lawn movement,
Sixteen volunteers. Two
miles. Three hundred pounds
of debris. May 19, 2009, was
no normal day at the office for
Sequel US employees, who
spent the day picking up waste
and garbage from Sheffield
Island in an effort to celebrate
Sequel’s 25th anniversary with
GUESS Watches. Sequel US, based in Norwalk, CT, is a subsidiary
of Timex Group and designs Guess watches. With the help of the
Norwalk Seaport Association and Kierran Broatch of Save the
Sound, the sixteen Sequel employees ferried from Norwalk
Harbor to Sheffield Island and spent the day collecting plastic
debris, bottles and wrappers.
“Sequel is in the process of ‘Going Green.’ We have a number of
recycling programs in place and are working towards recyclable
watch packaging in the near future,” said Meghan Trepkau, a
junior designer for Sequel and a participant in the coastal
cleanup. “Experiencing where a lot of trash ends up first-hand
showed us how important these efforts are to the environment.”
When Meghan was asked why her company chose to volunteer to
help protect Long Island Sound, she said, “We wanted to find a
way to give back to the community that we have been a part of
for the last 25 years. Although there are many volunteer programs
available we felt that most people would strongly connect with
the beach and be passionate about the environment.”
An “eye-opening” experience for the Sequel team, the cleanup of
Sheffield Island stirred some thought about how much trash we
each produce daily and where it all ends up. After an exhausting
but extraordinarily productive day, the team capped off the day by
touring the Sheffield Lighthouse. As a representative of Sequel,
Throughout the communities surrounding Long Island Sound, there are people making a difference. We interviewed three of them
to learn more about how they turned their love of the Sound into action. They inspire us to discover what each of us can do to
become Sound Stewards.
Photo credit: Laurel Lobovitz
43 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Meghan wrote, “It was a wonderful team building experience and
taught us a lot about our community’s environment and how we
can help protect it.”
For many of us in our childhoods,
summers were defined by trips to the
shore and freedom to play in plenty
of sunshine. The difference between
many of us and Josie Merck is that
instead of just splashing about in the
Sound’s waters for some summer
fun, she uses the landscape, the
wildlife and the water as inspiration
for art. Using her artist’s eye, she
sketches fleeting moments in local
scenery, paints shore birds as they
capture their morning breakfast, or recycles odds and ends into
collages of the ever changing natural world.
Merck, who received her Masters of Fine Arts from Yale, has
lived among all sorts of exciting landscapes, including Brazil and
Mexico. These places not only introduced her to new and beautiful
colors and cultures, but also to endangered animals and the
human effect on their habitats, which comprise our environment.
This awareness for the impact she, along with the rest of society,
has on the environment helped to create a more intimate
relationship between Merck and the environment around her.
Though she has lived in the same Cos Cob house with her
husband, Jim Stevenson, an op-ed columnist for the New York
Times, for 30 years, she summers at her second home in
Block Island, where she has always been drawn to the
landscape. She understands the integrity and importance of
these waterbodies right in our own backyard and it is in her
role as an advocate, artist, and philanthropist that she kindly
agreed to sit with Save the Sound for a quick Q & A.
STS: Why is the Sound important to you?
Josie: The Sound’s waters impact everyone’s right to recreation
and a living. Our actions have a direct impact on the swimming
waters, the beaches of our parks and municipalities, the waters
we sail, row and paddle in. Looking out over a “Soundscape”
filled with sails and lighthouses and shore birds and sea birds
and imagining all the fish and clams and lobsters within those
waters is to contemplate a magnificent beauty. And that is good
for my soul!
STS: How did you get involved with environmental issues?
Josie: I did not grow up near any ocean but would sail with my
family on a borrowed sail boat from Shelter Island around through
Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound in the summers. My
father was an avid birder and we were trained to be alert to sea
and shorebirds, from the ruddy turnstones to the elegant tern.
We had animals of all types at home in New Jersey and we had
a family garden using our chicken and horse manure as fertilizer.
My father also kept bees – so an ecological underpinning was
established that we could have a benign impact or a deadly one
on the land and the crops. Rodale Magazine was a part of my
parents’ reading, and it rubbed off on me.
STS: What has felt the most rewarding along the way?
Josie: I think being involved with organizations that excite me
(and their members) to take an active part in protecting their
environment. CFE has its beach report card in conjunction with
the NRDC, has worked with stormwater runoff, and has won
cases to hold parties accountable for the pollution downstream.
Witnessing the successes on the ground is the best.
STS: How have you
seen things change
since you first
started working on
behalf of the
Josie: I first “woke
up” in the era of the
Love Canal and of
course Silent Spring
before that. I think if
Americans can recall
the Cuyahoga River fires they will remember the havoc we can
reap, and they will support regulations and protections. Of course
climate disruption is the biggest crisis any of us has been alerted
to in all of our lifetimes. And so many more of us are realizing
what each of our giant human footprints can do. Recycle, reuse,
reduce has been a mantra since Earth Day and yet maybe now
we are beginning to take heed, and I pray not too late.
STS: Why do you contribute to environmental causes?
Josie: I support environmental advocacy organizations as a way
to participate in our democratic system – I believe in our system
of laws which works to protect the innocent, including vulnerable
species and the earth and air and land we all need to share to
thrive together. Laws for clean air and clear water would not
happen without good science and good lawyers acting on our and
our children and grandchildren’s behalf. There is no greater cause
as I see it.
OSPREY, JOSIE MERCK
Photo credit: both
courtesy of Josie Merck
44 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
YOUR CHOICES COUNT.
45 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
LEARN MORE: LONG ISLAND
History of Long Island Sound
The Long Island Sound Watershed
The Long Island Sound
A central clearinghouse for Sound-related
information and data. Access scientific
research, view interactive maps, search
and download literature related to the
Sound, or browse a directory of
organizations and information sources.
The Long Island Sound Foundation
Connecticut Sea Grant
Sea Grant New York
National network of 30 programs at
universities in coastal and Great Lake
states and Puerto Rico. Encourages wise
stewardship of our marine resources
through research, education, outreach
and technology transfer.
NOAA: National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration in CT
Under the US Department of Commerce,
NOAA is comprised of the National Ocean
Service, National Weather Service,
National Marine Fisheries Service,
National Environmental Satellite Data,
and Information Service, and Office of
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.
http://mi.nefsc.noaa.gov/ NOAA Lab in
SIGN ME UP! ORGANIZATIONS
AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Save the Sound
Save the Sound, a program of
Connecticut Fund for the Environment,
has a robust volunteer program that
includes coastal cleanups, habitat
restoration and activism.
American Littoral Society
Citizens’ Campaign for the
Clean Water Action
Connecticut Department of
Storm drain marking
Earthplace – The Nature Discovery
Center (Westport, CT)
Friends of the Bay (Oyster Bay, NY)
Land trusts operating in Connecticut
Long Island Sound Study
The Maritime Aquarium
The Nature Conservancy of
Project Oceanology (Groton, CT)
Schooner, Inc. (New Haven, CT)
The Sound School (New Haven, CT)
Stewart B. McKinney National
Wildlife Refuge (CT)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
46 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection’s Long
Island Sound Program
New York Department of State
New York Department of
Environmental Conservation’s Coastal
Erosion Management Program
New York City Department of
Waterfront Alliance of New York
and New Jersey
Long Island Sound LNG
(Liquefied Natural Gas) Task Force
New England Interstate Water
Pollution Control Commission
NEMO: Nonpoint Education for
Information, education and assistance
to local land use boards and commissions
on how accommodating growth while
protecting their natural resources and
US Environmental Protection
Agency’s Beach Watch Program
A Guide to Water Quality Standards
Water quality management process
and standards set forth in the Clean
CT DEP on water testing.
EPA on CT water quality issues.
EPA on NY water quality issues.
Summer Hypoxia Maps of
Long Island Sound
Tide Charts for Connecticut
Tide Charts for New York
WRITING TO ELECTED OFFICIALS
Find your officials and their contact
Tips on communicating via phone,
letter or email.
Connecticut General Assembly
New York State Assembly
EVERYDAY CHOICES TO HELP
LONG ISLAND SOUND
Find a Farmer’s Market Near You
Sustainable Seafood Choices
Freedom Lawn Initiative
Voluntary program to decrease the use
of pesticides and chemical fertilizers
on residential lawns and gardens.
Local competition and brochures on
organic lawn care.
Organic Land Care for Homeowners
Easy Household Steps to Avoid
Pollution to Long Island Sound
How to Maintain your Septic System
Pledge to be a Clean Boater
Consider Low Impact Development
Jessica Morgan, LID Coordinator
for CT DEP, (860) 418-5994 or
Purchase a Preserve the Sound
License Plate (CT)
Purchase a Marine and Coastal
District License Plate (NY)
This Fine Piece of Water:
An Environmental History of
Long Island Sound
(Tom Andersen. Yale University
Sphere: Tom Andersen’s Blog
about Long Island Sound:
The Urban Sea: Long Island Sound
(Lee Koppelman. Praeger
The Long Island Sound: A History of
Its People, Places and Environment
(Marilyn Weigold. NYU Press, 2004.)
47 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
1. Long Island Sound Study Habitat Restoration
Initiative: Technical Support for Coastal Habitat
Restoration. November 2003.
2. Long Island Sound Study.
3. Dreyer, G.D., Niering, W.A., 1995. Tidal Marshes
of Long Island Sound: Ecology, History and
Restoration. Connecticut College Arboretum
4. Long Island Sound 2003 Agreement.
5. Professor Matthew Draud,
6. Data from Save the Sound (CT), American
Littoral Society (NY) and The Ocean
7. Cohen, Roz. “There’s a Future in Plastics.”
8. Connecticut data from hardcopy map created
by S. Gephard, CT DEP, translated to digital by
K. Geisler using the hydronet.shp file from CT
DEP. New York data estimated by R. Orson,
Save the Sound.
9. Long Island Sound Comprehensive
Conservation and Management Plan
10. Long Island Sound Study.
11. Long Island Sound Study Indicators Report 2008.
12. Long Island Sound Study Indicators Report 2008.
13. Long Island Sound Study Indicators Report 2008.
14. Professor Johan Varekamp,
15. New York Freedom of Information Office.
16. McElroy A. Endocrine disruptors in Jamaica Bay.
Presentation to Jamaica Bay Watershed
Protection Plan Advisory Committee –
May 15, 2006. Marine Sciences Research
Center, Stoney Brook University.
17. Kidd KA, et al. 2007. “Collapse of a fish
population after exposure to a synthetic
estrogen.” Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. 104 8897 – 8901.
18. Kirk LA, Tyler CR, Lye CM, Sumpter JP. 2002.
“Changes in estrogenic and androgenic
activities at different stages of treatment in
wastewater treatment works.” Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry 21: 972–979.
19. Public Act 07-154 “ An Act Establishing
Municipal Stormwater Authority Pilot Program.”
20. The Long Island Sound Watershed
Intermunicipal Council. <www.liswic.org>
21. NRDC Green Infrastructure Report for
Citation on Green Infrastructure.
22. Connecticut Department of Aquaculture,
New York Department of Shellfisheries.
23. Connecticut, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester
Departments of Health.
24. CT data from Connecticut Department of
Aquaculture. NY data from response to FOIA
request. East River sewage treatment plant
discharges are prorated based on 48%
contribution to LIS according to SWEM model.
25. Coastal Vision and Synapse Energy.
26. Letter from Peter D. Colosi, Jr, Assistant
Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation
of the National Marine Fisheries Service to the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Regarding
Assessment of the Consequences of License
Renewal of Nuclear Plants Regarding Millstone
Power Station and Generic Environmental
Impact Statement for License Renewal of
Nuclear Plants Supplement 22, U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission. July 2005.
27. Long Island Sound 2003 Agreement.
28. Long Island Sound Study Stewardship Initiative.
29. Sea Grant Lobster Research Program.
30. Long Island Sound Watershed Association
Abstract, March 2008.
31. Data courtesy of CT Department of Fisheries.
32. Ron Rozsa, personal communication.
33. G.M. Capriulo, G. Smith, R. Troy, G.H. Wikfors,
J. Pellet & C. Yarish. 2002. The planktonic food
web structure of a temperate zone estuary, and
its alteration due to eutrophication.
Hydrobiologia 475/476: 263–333.
34. Professor Roman Zajac, personal
35. Gary Wikfors, personal communication.
36. Natural Resources Defense Council's 2010
Testing the Waters Report.
Acknowledgements: We owe
tremendous thanks to the Advisory
Committee, many scientists from
universities in Connecticut and Long
Island, the CT Department of Energy and
Environmental Protection, the NY
Department of Environmental
Conservation, the Environmental
Protection Agency, and the Long Island
Sound Study, who generously shared their
time and knowledge to make this report
possible. However, all grades and
recommendations as well as any errors
are the sole responsibility of Connecticut
Fund for the Environment and its program
Save the Sound.
p.11 Rye, NY, photograph courtesy of
Kimberley Zimmer-Graff, Marshlands
p.19 Hypoxia graphic courtesy of
Connecticut Department of
p.20 Combined sewer overflow graphic
courtesy of City of Wilmington, DE,
CSO education program
p.22 Stormwater runoff image courtesy of
North Carolina Department of
Environment and Natural Resources
p.29 Nissequogue River State Park
photograph courtesy of Robert
p.35 Plum Island photograph credited to
Kyselak under Creative Commons
license, via Wikipedia.org
p.42 Garden photograph courtesy of
p.43 Photographs courtesy of Josie Merck
48 S TAT E OF T HE S OUND
Through the support of
our members, funders
and coalition partners,
Connecticut Fund for the
Environment and Save
the Sound have:
• Gained $875 million in
state funding for better
treatment of sewage on our
rivers and Long Island Sound.
• Completed 24 and begun six
more major restoration
projects with a broad
spectrum of partners,
including opening or
repairing ancestral fish
migration runs and restoring
wetland and marsh function
to increase the quality and
health of ecosystems and
allow native plant, bird and
other species to return.
• Fought Broadwater, the
proposed liquefied natural
gas facility that threatens to
industrialize Long Island
• Organized volunteers to
remove over 75,000 pounds
of litter from Connecticut's
shoreline in the last five
• Stopped bulldozers from
turning wetlands and
forests into shopping malls
and protected thousands
of acres of pristine lands
surrounding our drinking
water, and championed laws
that make it more profitable
to conserve certain lands
than to develop them.
• Gained adoption of the
toughest auto emission
standards in the country
while working hard to reduce
the need for cars and expand
public transit, passed
legislation to fight global
warming through an
economy-wide carbon cap,
and forced power plants to
use cleaner technology.
• Legally challenged five
corporations for chronically
discharging toxic chemicals
into our rivers – and won.
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
142 Temple St, Suite 305
New Haven, CT 06510
Tel: (203) 787-0646
Fax: (203) 787-0246
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
is funded by membership contributions,
individual and corporate donations,
foundations and government grants.
To support our defense of the
environment, please join today.
Save the Sound is dedicated to the
restoration, protection and
appreciation of Long Island Sound and its watershed through advocacy, education and
research. Originally founded in 1972, Save the Sound merged with Connecticut Fund for
the Environment in 2004. Through our Advocacy, Habitat Restoration and Coastal Cleanup
programs we strive to accomplish our mission: saving Long Island Sound.
Who We Are
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